Major Roadmap Update Centers Around Phoenix, Thunderbird; 1.4 Branch to Replace 1.0; Changes Planned for Module Ownership Model
Wednesday April 2nd, 2003
In the most radical change to the Mozilla project since the late 1998 decision to rewrite much of the code, mozilla.org today announced a major new roadmap proposal that will see Phoenix and Thunderbird (also known as Minotaur) becoming the focus of future development. According to the roadmap, 1.4 is likely to be the last milestone of the traditional Mozilla suite and the 1.4 branch will replace the 1.0 branch as the stable development path. mozilla.org is also proposing changes to the module ownership model including a move towards stronger leadership and the removal of mandatory super-review in some cases. Please click the Full Article link to read the full analysis.
#163 Extensions in Phoenix - how they should work
Friday April 4th, 2003 3:28 AM
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Sure, those 'core' extensions are going to ship, but with the new strict UI direction there are going to be many features I personally want (like the ability to use new windows instead of tabs for middle-click, or search from the main URL bar with autocomplete) which may not end up in the UI.
I don't really think the issue is whether extensions ship with the browser - who cares - but how easy they are to install. For example right now it is fairly difficult. If you go to 'Phoenix Extensions' (link from preferences), it just loads a separate web page where you have to select the extension you want and go through a slightly scary install confirm dialogue. Most of the extensions provided don't actually seem to work with the browser version in use. It's unclear whether they have installed or not. There doesn't seem to be a mechanism for extension properties... and so on.
If you look at JEdit this has a fantastic way to install plugins - all plugins are registered on the JEdit community site, and from within the program you can just go to 'install plugins' and it gives you a categorisd (tree) list right there in the dialog. (I think the list is filtered by required version etc. as well.) You can click on items and get a description. Then click install and it is installed for you. (I think you can also have it automatically update all your installed stuff to newer versions.) If you want to uninstall you can do that too, right there in the dialog. And properties for extensions automatically are added right to the preferences dialogue.
Now I can see that extensions in Phoenix aren't finished yet, the program is only 0.5, and hopefully many of these features will be incorporated. But I really think now that Phoenix is becoming the official mozilla.org browser, it's VERY important to have official (mozilla.org hosted) plugin registry that maintains a categorised list of available plugins, their versions, and an absolutely definitive indicator of which browser versions they work with. Ideally this would also provide a nicer (software-UI-style) interface right in the browser preferences for installing them, though that could be done in HTML within the window obviously, and for doing things like automatically updating versions.
So you'd go to the dialogue, check under the 'User interface' category, and find the extension you want in the list right there. There's a link to bring up more information if you want it, or one-click install. The feature is then available in the list, with preferences and documentation directly accessible. (Maybe the initial one-page documentation should also pop up after you install.)
Next time you go to preferences/extensions, you click 'Check for extension update' and it goes off to mozilla.org and looks for you. Two of your extensions have newer versions available, both of which still work with your current browser version. So this information is passed on and the user just clicks 'ok' to update both extensions.
That's (IMO) how it SHOULD work. Will it?
* Host an official extension registry
* Ensure that only extensions guaranteed to work in current browser version are shown
* Ensure that extensions have a simple mechanism for preferences *and* documentation/basic instructions
* Use Web services rather than just random separate-window HTML pages to provide extension lists, data (so that it can easily do things like a software UI, checking whether plugin works in browser version, etc.)